PM Modi to unveil New Ensign of the Indian Navy: What is a Naval Ensign and Why is it being Changed?

New Ensign of Indian Navy: Prime Minister Narendra Modi will unveil the New Naval Ensign (Nishaan) on Friday – 2nd Sept during the commissioning of INS Vikrant. PM Modi will dedicate INS Vikrant -India’s first indigenous aircraft carrier at the Cochin Shipyard Limited. At the commissioning event of INS Vikrant, PM Modi will unveil the new New Ensign of the Indian Navy.

This news has been confirmed by Prime Minister’s office through an official statement issued on 30th August 2022. The statement read “Prime Minister will commission the first indigenously designed and built aircraft carrier as INS Vikrant. The Prime Minister will also unveil the new Naval Ensign (Nishaan), doing away with the colonial past and befitting the rich Indian maritime heritage”.Know what is a Naval Ensign and Why is it being Changed for the Indian Navy?

What is a Naval Ensign?

As per the common understanding, a Naval Ensign is a maritime flag which is used by naval ships of various countries to denote their nationality. The Naval Ensign can be the same as the National Flag of the country that they represent or it can be different from it. In the case of India, the Naval Ensign that is used by the Indian Navy is different from the National Flag.

Is this the first time the naval ensign is being changed?

The simple answer to this question is ‘No’. Indian Navy has changed its Ensign multiple times during the pre-colonial era and once even after gaining independence. Let’s look at a brief history of the Indian Naval Ensign. (Images Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons)

Star of India and the Union Jack: Indian Navy got its first Ensign during the colonial period under British Rule. The first ensign of the Indian Navy, then known as the Her Majesty’s Indian Marine (1879 to 1884) and Royal Indian Marine (1892 to 1934) consisted of the Star of India.

Introduction of Saint George Cross: In 1928, the white ensign of the Royal Navy with Saint George Cross and Union Jack Flag was used by Royal Indian Navy (1934 to 1950).

Introduction of Saint George Cross

Post Independence: After gaining independence, on 26th January 1950, the Royal Indian Navywas re-christened the Indian Navy with its crests and flags being duly “Indianised”. In line with this, the Union Jack on the earlier flag was replaced with the tricolour or the National Flag of India in the canton (top left corner of the flag).

Post Independence

Doing Away with Saint George Cross: In 2001, the Ensign of the Indian Navy was changed once again to breakaway from the precolonial era baggage. In line with this, the government decided to change the Naval Ensign to feature the Indian Flag and a blue crest of the Indian Navy set upon a white background.

Doing Away with Saint George Cross

Readoption of Saint George’s Cross: After receiving multiple complaints from sailors about the Blue Crest of the Indian Navy being indistinguishable from Blue Sky; the government decided to readopt the Saint George’s Cross. In addition to this, the State Emblem of India was also introduced at the intersection of the cross. In 2014, a further iteration of the ensign was made with the inclusion of the Indian national motto in the Devanagari script: सत्यमेव जयते below the National Emblem

Readoption of Saint George’s Cross

Why is the Ensign of the Indian Navy Being Changed Now?

After gaining independence, most Commonwealth Countries have decided to move away from the Saint George’s Cross and other symbols which have been passed from the colonial era. Australia, New Zealand and Canada are the three most prominent Commonwealth Countries which have decided to move away from the old colonial era-inspired ensigns and flags.

The decision to adopt a new ensign for the Indian Navy also comes in line with the same thought of breaking away from colonial roots and past. In fact, the statement issued by PMO in this regard also notes that the new Naval Ensign (Nishaan) will do away with the colonial past and will be“befitting the rich Indian maritime heritage”.

As of now the design of the new ensign of the Indian Navy has been kept under wraps but if the buzz in the defence circles is to be believed the Saint George’s Cross will go while the naval crest depicting an anchor would be added besides certain colour changes.The government is also planning to bring about some commonality or uniformity among the Flags of the Army and the Indian Air Force and the Indian Navy.

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